Last year’s Big Three, who dominated NASCAR last year, have been shutout so far in 2019, but that could change this weekend at the TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have had success at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, and one of the three could be the first to get in the winner’s circle this year.
There have only been three races this season, but last year Harvick had already won two of them, and would make it three in a row when he captured the contest at Phoenix.
Harvick and Busch are the top two picks by oddsmakers this Sunday. Harvick is listed at 9/4, while Busch is next at 7/2. Truex is a 10/1, below Brad Keselowski (7/1) and Logano (8/1).
In the two races at Phoenix last year, Harvick and Busch each won one of them. Harvick told reporters that the 1-mile track is one he enjoys. He has captured seven of his last 13 starts there.
“When we go to Phoenix, we are always going for the win,” Harvick said. “That’s been a great racetrack for me, personally, and since I’ve been at SHR, it’s become statistically one of our best racetracks as far as win counts go. It’s definitely a racetrack that we circle every year where we think we should have an opportunity to win.”
Dominance Absent in 2019
The trio had grabbed 12 checkered flags in the first 15 races, and went on to dominate the season, though Joey Logano beat them out of the Cup Series championship.
They have come close to victory this year. Busch was second at Daytona, while Truex finished runner up in Atlanta. Harvick’s best finish has been a pair of fourths at Las Vegas and Atlanta.
Busch, like Harvick, has always enjoyed coming to ISM Raceway.
“For some reason, I’ve always run well there,” Busch said. “I don’t know if it’s that I’m comfortable being back close to home on the West Coast, or what. I always have a little more fan support out there, as well. As for the track itself, you’ve always had two distinctly different corners at Phoenix, which makes it fun and challenging all at the same time.”
Expect Swapping Paint
Two drivers that might provide an interesting subplot are Erik Jones and Ricky Stenhouse. The two were involved in some aggressive driving last Sunday in Las Vegas, and Jones was critical of Stenhouse.
It happened in the first stage. The duo swapped positions for a number of laps while running in the top 10 and at one point made contact. Jones was critical of Stenhouse’s tactics.
“I think it was just overzealous, probably, on his part,” Jones told NASCAR.com. “It was really early in the race and it was really overly aggressive. At that point, we had a much faster car than he did, and he just made it really hard on us to get around him.”
Jones said that payback might be in order at Phoenix.
“He’s just going to have to expect that in return,” Jones said. “He’s had some fast cars to start the year and I know he wants to have some good finishes, but there’s kind of a happy medium there between racing hard, trying to maintain what you’ve got and giving people a little bit of a break every once in a while.”
Stenhouse is listed at 50/1 to win, while Jones is at 25/1.